May 182015
Exploring sexual experiences, shame, and access to sexual health information among Muslim Youth in Canada: A Research Study

We welcome guest writer and researcher Sobia Ali Faisal, who recently earned her doctoral degree from the University of Windsor. Her research is compelling and was recently turned into an info graphic. Below is a guest post where she succinctly explains what her research findings were and why it is so important for our communities to begin making a commitment to sex education for Muslim youth. We congratulate Sobia for such compelling research and look forward to more of her work in this field.

by Sobia Ali Faisal

infographicSome of my research findings from my doctoral work were put into an infographic to make the results more accessible than they are right now in the huge dissertation document. It’s great to see the information get out there and be shared. Research on sex and Muslims in Canada and the US is virtually non-existent. People have had some questions on it so I thought I would explain my research a little (and save people having to read my entire dissertation). I’m hoping to get it published in the near future, insha’Allah, but some of this information is relevant right now. Although, the issue is not being covered in the media as much anymore, this is an issue that is and will be relevant for Muslims for a long time.

Muslim Youth Need Sex Education

Yes they do.Why? Because Muslim youth are having sex. I surveyed 403 Muslims in Canada and the US between the ages of 17 and 35. More than half (221) reported they had engaged in sex. I did not ask for any particular time frame. I was simply asking if they had ever had sex. Of those 221, two-thirds (148) said they had done so before marriage. Before anyone thinks that most of those 148 people were men, I found these proportions were the same for men and women – two-thirds of the women and two-thirds of the men had sex before marriage.

Even when looking at those who had not engaged in sex before marriage, half of those Muslims reported that they had considered doing so.

It’s clear that sex is relevant to Muslim youth. Previous research on the sexual education of Muslim youth (done mostly in New Zealand or the UK) has found Muslim parents DO want their children to have sexual education, but not until they are getting married. Knowing that Muslims are having sex before marriage means that having them wait until they are getting married to provide them with this education is too late, and dangerous. They clearly need to know about issues of consent, violence in relationships, and healthy sexual decision making long before that time.

The Greatest Source of Sex Ed is the Media and Parents are the Least Likely Source

I asked my participants to rate, on a scale from 0 – 4, how much sexual education they received from the media, their friends, and their parents. Media received the highest rating and was statistically significantly higher than the rating given to parents as a source of education.

This isn’t unique to Muslims, but it highlights the problem that plagues all young people – parents aren’t talking about issues of sex and sexual health so the school systems need to provide this education. My research simply points out that Muslim youth are no different than their non-Muslim counterparts in this regard.

Lack of Sexual Knowledge -> Fear of Negative Sexual Self-Judgement -> Unhealthy Relationships

The main focus of my dissertation was sexual guilt and sexual anxiety of young Muslim adults. Previous research has found belief in sexual myths and lack of sexual knowledge to be related to higher levels of sexual guilt. Sexual guilt is a fear of negatively judging oneself for either engaging in or possibly engaging in sexual activity.

Previous research has also found a sexual guilt to be related to greater sexual dissatisfaction, higher frequency of sexual problems, and dissatisfaction with a current sexual relationship, which in turn has been found to be related to decreased relationship and marital satisfaction.

Lack of sexual knowledge can therefore result in negative feelings about sexual activity which will have an impact on sexual and romantic relationships.


My conclusion is the same as before – young Muslims need sexual health education, just as their non-Muslim counterparts do.


Brezsnyak, M.,& Whisman, M.A. (2004). Sexual desire and relationship functioning: The effects of marital satisfaction and power. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 30, 199-217. doi: 10.1080/00926230490262393

Cado, S., & Leitenberg, H. (1990). Guilt reactions to sexual fantasies during intercourse. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 19, 49-63. doi: 10.1007/BF01541825

Darling, C.A., Davidson, J.K., & Passello, L.C. (1992). The mystique of first intercourse among college youth: The role of partners, contraceptive practices, and psychological reactions. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 21, 97-117. doi: 10.1007/BF01536984

Mendelsohn, M. J., & Mosher, D. L. (1979). Effects of sex guilt and premarital sexual permissiveness on role-played sex education and moral attitudes. Journal of Sex Research, 15, 174-183. doi:10.1080/00224497909551039

Trudel, G., & Goldfarb, M.R., (2010). Marital and sexual functioning and dysfunctioning, depression and anxiety. Sexologies, 19, 137-142. doi: 10.1016/j.sexol.2009.12.009

Witting, K., Santtila, P., Alanko, K., Harlaar, N., Jern, P., Johansson, A.,… Sandnabba, K. (2008). Female sexual function and its associations with number of children, pregnancy, and relationship satisfaction. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 34, 89 – 106. doi: 10.1080/00926230701636163

originally published on

  8 Responses to “What does the Research Say? That Muslim Youth Need Sex Education”

  1. excellent work, wondering what was the race breakdown meaning how many of them had parents of southeast Asian descent, African American, middle eastern
    Secondly were these young people were raised in US from childhood or they emigrated at certain age like preteen or teen age

  2. Thank you, Muhammad!

    Here’s the breakdown by ethnicity:
    43.4% South Asian
    25.1 % Arab
    7.4% European descent
    6% African American/Canadian
    5.6% multiple ethnicities

    65% were born in either Canada or the US. Of those who were not born in Canada or the US, 65% moved here by age 12. So most of my sample spent their teen years here.

  3. Hi! I am a male adult of South Asian decent in Houston – United States. I have a post graduate and have a research background. I am wondering what methods you used to survey such information and is your sample distribution wide enough. For example:

    Anonymous vs public poll
    Any surrounding influence
    Outside a mosque or outside a club
    Sample list is very young or old
    Whether the author/researcher had a bias

    I think this is a great research and we need more of such in current times. I also promote teaching our children about the fundementals of the facts of life (which I personally found out through other school choldreen). With that, I’d like to point out to you that no guy I knew claimed to be a virgin as that would be throwing yourself off of the cliff in front of coolness. In fact these points were exaggerated even by myself because the next guy claimed to be a pornstar. I’m in my mid 30s now and the men still have my cock is larger then yours mentality (excuse my french but since we are on such a frank topic). Most of us are married and have children but not a single soul has gotten to a level head – remember we’re still cool.

    Long story short please shed some light on your drivers. Thanks and good work!

    • Hi Atif,

      I used online surveys, so all respondents were completely anonymous. I recruited participants from all kinds of online sources – FB, listservs, blogs, etc. It actually didn’t take me long to get a large enough sample to power my analysis. I think the snowballing method worked well.

      I know many guys may exaggerate, but as all participants were anonymous this may have protected against that. Also, as far as sexual experience goes, I only had a couple of questions regarding that. I didn’t ask for any details. So there wasn’t much opportunity to brag. Also, considering there was no significant difference between men and women I’m thinking the men in this study were being honest.

      Also, there were no significant differences in term of demographics between those who completed my surveys and those who did not.

      The information in the infographic was not my main analysis. This information is a description of my sample. My main analysis was a path analysis and the variables I assessed (except sexual guilt), as well as my results, are not in this infographic.

      I hope that clarifies things a little.

  4. Very interesting research.
    Did you compare the religiosity of your respondents to any benchmarks? I say from your dissertation that you used the RIS scale, but I didn’t see a comparison between respondents and the overall American Muslim population – which would be helpful in determining how representative your sample is.

    • Thanks for your comment and question, Besheer.

      I didn’t statistically compare to the overall American Muslim population (or the Canadian one, for that matter). I’m not sure the data is there to compare to. There IS research that shows that Muslims, in general (including in the US and the UK), tend to be relatively religious when compared to other religious groups, and my sample actually wasn’t that different in that regard. Generally speaking, my sample was fairly religious. To do a statistical comparison the ideal situation would be to have the general American Muslim population complete the RIS, which has not been done (and most likely won’t be done). The issue is that religiosity is measured in a numerous ways and so we can only compare conceptually. To be honest, religiosity is a difficult concept to measure in the first place as people increasingly have a variety of definitions for it, especially among Muslims.

      I hope that addresses your question.

  5. Does this only take into account sexual intercourse or all sexually related activities (oral, anal etc)? If it’s only the former, I wonder if the number of Muslim youth who refrain from any sort of sexual activities is lower than the reported 33%…..

    It is scary to see the Muslim youth behave like their nonMuslim counterparts and I’m sure the percentages will continue grow in the wrong direction with each generation.

  6. I commend you for this research and the people who asked questions and your responses.
    Many of our youth don’t come to Mosques, they don’t relate to the Imams from back home.They feel there is a power struggle in Mosques.In the words of a former younger Board member who said They feel the elders feel it is my way or the highway.Some Mosques Don’t even have a term limit for its officers.The youth feel they don’t have an opportunity.
    Mosques emphasize Ritualistic Islam over Idealistic Islam.I agree with Yasmin Mogahed about her lecture “The Spirituality of Justice”There are more ways than one to reach God. Righteousness, Compassion and service to humanity is the essence of Islam.
    Our girls need more Education and so do the boys. If a girl says no half of the problems would be solved.Once our children leave home they make their own decisions. I have read that the Rabbis have told their youth it is preferable that they meet in the Synagogue, meet during the day in an open place, Don’t go to the movies together. I have not heard a single Imam give any advice about dating!

 Leave a Reply